Highlights from US cyberspying charges against 5 Chinese

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The Justice Department announced charges Monday against five Chinese military officials in a landmark international cyber-spying case.

THE CHARGES: The indictment’s 31 counts include economic espionage, theft of trade secrets and aggravated identity theft. The federal grand jury indictment was filed in the Western District of Pennsylvania, where most of the companies that are said to have been targeted are located. The indictment accuses the officials of hacking into the computers of companies and a union to gain access to trade secrets and private communications.

THE ACCUSED: The indictment charges five officers of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army. They are Wang Dong, Sun Kailiang, Wen Xinyu, Huang Zhenyu, and Gu Chunhui.

THE ALLEGED TARGETS: Westinghouse Electric Co., U.S. subsidiaries of SolarWorld AG, United States Steel Corp., Allegheny Technologies Inc., Alcoa Inc. and the United Steelworkers labour union.

THE OPERATION: Prosecutors allege that working from a building in Shanghai, hackers stole confidential business information for competitive advantage. In some instances, the indictment says, they gained access to computer networks by sending emails to company employees that looked authentic but that actually contained a link to malicious code. Those emails, known as “spearfishing messages,” installed malware onto the recipients’ computers and provided hackers with unauthorized access to the system.

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